Province promises Perkins House spending

by Keith Corcoran And Brittany Wentzell

  • <p>KEITH CORCORAN PHOTO</p><p>A feline checks out King&#8217;s Orange Rangers&#8217; Dave Freeman, left, and Owen Hamlin in front of Perkins House Museum in Liverpool during the premier&#8217;s April 23 funding announcement. Owen&#8217;s wife Gail is in the background.</p>

The oldest home in Nova Scotia's museum system will open again next year, says the premier. The province has committed to repairing Perkins House Museum in Liverpool after it closed to visitors in 2015 because it was deemed unsafe. At an April 23 news conference at the Queens County Museum next door, Premier Stephen McNeil said his government will make certain the provincial heritage property on Main Street is publicly accessible again. He also commended supporters for their work preserving local history.

"Thank you for your patience," he said. "I know that many of you worked hard and some of you felt this would not happen; [that] this museum would not be ... preserved. That was never our intention."

The planned upgrades, expected to start later this year, are estimated to cost up to $1.5 million.

The renovation design work begins "within the next month" according to a news release, and McNeil said it's his hope that Perkins House could be accessible this year but the expectation is the facility will re-open next summer.

When asked why it took so long to make the funding commitment, McNeil said an assessment was necessary, among other things, to know what needed to be fixed, plus the "fiscal capacity" didn't exist until now.

"It was probably the most thrilling news that we've heard because you know it's been a long wait, it's been two and a half years," said Linda Rafuse, manager of Perkins House and Queens County Museum. "It's the words we've been waiting to hear and we finally heard them."

Rafuse and the Queens Heritage Society recently wrote a letter to the province asking for support once again. They found out on Friday that the house would be receiving funding and that work would start immediately. The house was closed for its 250th anniversary and the 60th anniversary of its inception as a museum.

Perkins House was built between 1766 and 1767 for Simeon Perkins, a New England Planter who is credited with documenting Queens County's privateering past in his diary.

"The Simeon Perkins diary, which details the house, as well as the lives of the people living in it and in the community from 1766 to 1812, adds to the importance of the house as an illustration of an early part of Nova Scotia history," states the news release provided by the province.

When asked about the $1.5 million price-tag for the repairs, Rafuse said it's her understanding the province will not just make sure the house is structurally sound, but also tackle ventilation and humidity issues and possibly drainage around the house.

"I'm sure that [the province] only wants to deal with this one time, they don't want to come back and address it again so they'll make sure she's her bestest and brightest this time and that's my understanding," said Rafuse.

According to an engineering report done a couple years ago, some of the house sills may need repair or replacement.

"That would be the number one, that and addressing the drainage around the house," said Rafuse.

The house also required some cosmetic work besides its structural issues, she added. Moisture has caused problems for plaster in particular and every other year the walls have to be re-plastered.

Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal will do the work, and Rafuse said they'll know more details regarding the plans soon.

The hope is to have the house open next year, and even though it might not open until midway through the 2018 season, Rafuse said staff are just happy they can start planning for the future.

Just before the house closed, the Nova Scotia Museum had been helping Perkins House staff with an interpretive renewal plan, including the addition of more "living history" aspects.

"That's what we're most excited for getting back in the house for," said Rafuse.

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